What's going on, EA...?

What's going on, EA...?

August 2021

It's been over four years and we're still suffering  

In this long overdue update, we'll summarise the latest from the rollercoaster experience of living next to one of the worst performing industrial poultry units in England and Wales, if not the worst.

Number of complaints - since people in the local community started reporting the odour from Newbridge Farm to the Environment Agency's incident hotline in March 2017, there have been 723 complaints (to June 2021), of which 608 were at Level 3 or above - the level at which EA guidance suggests odour is 'unacceptable'.

EA compliance checks - we've previously highlighted the Environment Agency's failure to follow its own policies and take enforcement action against Hook 2 Sisters (H2S) despite the evidence of their appalling compliance performance of its operation at Newbridge Farm in 2017 (6 visits; compliance score 159) and 2018 (11 visits; compliance score 264). In 2019, the EA conducted just five compliance assessment visits and only substantiated unacceptable levels of odour once (compliance score 47). In 2020, there were only four visits resulting in a compliance score of 51.1, again substantiating odour as being unacceptable just once (the COVID-19 pandemic will have affected EA operations but that's still only one visit less than in 2019).

Operator performance - in response to the continuing number of odour complaints, at the EA's request, H2S has been reducing the number of birds from the original permitted limit of 312,500 per crop in five sheds, to 133,500 in three sheds in early 2020. H2S has also tried a range of measures including changes in feed, water supplements, ventilation system adjustments, and a misting system to try and disguise or mask the odour. None of these measures has been successful and locals were still reporting levels of unacceptable odour. However, in June 2020, the EA finally threatened H2S with revocation of its Environmental Permit for continued non-compliance. The H2S response was to propose stocking the Hubbard breed 'higher welfare' birds to replace the previous Ross breed. H2S believed that the Hubbard birds, which are slower growing, would produce less moisture in the bedding and reduce odour emissions. They also proposed spreading the birds across four sheds to reduce flock concentration. The EA had to accept this 'last ditch' proposal and allowed 144,500 birds in four sheds. However, this has not led to significant reductions in odour levels and the number of complaints, particularly in Q3 of 2020, has risen above the numbers for the same period in 2019. 

Warning letter - In January 2012, the EA sent H2S a warning letter about their failure to comply with permit conditions in June/July and again in November 2020. Given H2S's track record, a warning letter is not of itself likely to have any impact; however, it is another step forward by the EA in being able, at some point, to take some decisive enforcement and/or legal action. For us, it can't come soon enough because the EA has failed us for four years - it's time to stop the stink!

Keep watching this space and our Facebook page for more up to date posts.

August 2021

It's been over four years and we're still suffering  

In this long overdue update, we'll summarise the latest from the rollercoaster experience of living next to one of the worst performing industrial poultry units in England and Wales, if not the worst.

Number of complaints - since people in the local community started reporting the odour from Newbridge Farm to the Environment Agency's incident hotline in March 2017, there have been 723 complaints (to June 2021), of which 608 were at Level 3 or above - the level at which EA guidance suggests odour is 'unacceptable'.

EA compliance checks - we've previously highlighted the Environment Agency's failure to follow its own policies and take enforcement action against Hook 2 Sisters (H2S) despite the evidence of their appalling compliance performance of its operation at Newbridge Farm in 2017 (6 visits; compliance score 159) and 2018 (11 visits; compliance score 264). In 2019, the EA conducted just five compliance assessment visits and only substantiated unacceptable levels of odour once (compliance score 47). In 2020, there were only four visits resulting in a compliance score of 51.1, again substantiating odour as being unacceptable just once (the COVID-19 pandemic will have affected EA operations but that's still only one visit less than in 2019).

Operator performance - in response to the continuing number of odour complaints, at the EA's request, H2S has been reducing the number of birds from the original permitted limit of 312,500 per crop in five sheds, to 133,500 in three sheds in early 2020. H2S has also tried a range of measures including changes in feed, water supplements, ventilation system adjustments, and a misting system to try and disguise or mask the odour. None of these measures has been successful and locals were still reporting levels of unacceptable odour. However, in June 2020, the EA finally threatened H2S with revocation of its Environmental Permit for continued non-compliance. The H2S response was to propose stocking the Hubbard breed 'higher welfare' birds to replace the previous Ross breed. H2S believed that the Hubbard birds, which are slower growing, would produce less moisture in the bedding and reduce odour emissions. They also proposed spreading the birds across four sheds to reduce flock concentration. The EA had to accept this 'last ditch' proposal and allowed 144,500 birds in four sheds. However, this has not led to significant reductions in odour levels and the number of complaints, particularly in Q3 of 2020, has risen above the numbers for the same period in 2019. 

Warning letter - In January 2012, the EA sent H2S a warning letter about their failure to comply with permit conditions in June/July and again in November 2020. Given H2S's track record, a warning letter is not of itself likely to have any impact; however, it is another step forward by the EA in being able, at some point, to take some decisive enforcement and/or legal action. For us, it can't come soon enough because the EA has failed us for four years - it's time to stop the stink!

Keep watching this space and our Facebook page for more up to date posts.

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